I was looking for a job, and I never found a job, and heaven knows, I'm still miserable.
February 1, 2012 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Europe's lost generation: how it feels to be young and struggling in the EU. 'Maybe being young is never easy. But being a twentysomething young European has rarely been more stressful.' Here are some of their stories.

'More than a quarter (28%) of Italians between 16 and 24 are unemployed. Others are struggling to get by on unpaid internships or poorly paid jobs with little security.'

'The greatest victims of Greece's economic crisis have been its youth, men and women who never knew the boom times but must now bear the brunt of one of Europe's harshest austerity programmes.

With unemployment at a record as the debt-choked country endures a fifth consecutive year of recession, nearly 44% of the 907,953 out of work are between 15 and 24. For the first time since the 1960s, the jobless rate has nudged 18.5%, according to data released by the national statistics office in November. Four out of 10 without work are young people, although three months later, with ever more businesses closing, the figures are undoubtedly worse.'

'Now is not the time to be a twentysomething in Spain. According to figures last week, 51.4% of 16-24 year-olds are now without work, as the total unemployment count passed the 5 million barrier.

This has often been called the best-educated generation in Spain. It is also the one which has the direst prospects. Even if they are lucky enough to get a job, most of them – around 60% – have to live on low salaries with little job security. The usual best options are internships or temporary contracts that allow the employer to fire them without difficulty. The situation is now critical, as indicated by prime minister Mariano Rajoy's plea last week to Brussels.'
posted by VikingSword (74 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
This chart is pretty striking
posted by Perplexity at 3:05 PM on February 1, 2012


I do feel for them. It is very possible that we're looking at the collapse of the EU and the next Great Depression.

However, I also know that the traditional way of dealing with a lost generation is very, very popular in Europe. After 1914 and 1939, unemployment simply wasn't a big problem.
posted by eriko at 3:07 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


So - like here, only worse.

It' somewhat ironic that only a couple of years ago the doomsayers were declaring that a shortage of young workers was going to destroy the "greying" population of Europe.
posted by AdamCSnider at 3:10 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


However, I also know that the traditional way of dealing with a lost generation is very, very popular in Europe.

Viking raids?
posted by pompomtom at 3:11 PM on February 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Roman slavery?
posted by XMLicious at 3:14 PM on February 1, 2012


It' somewhat ironic that only a couple of years ago the doomsayers were declaring that a shortage of young workers was going to destroy the "greying" population of Europe.

Okay, so I'm not in Europe, but I can't help but suspect that part of the problem is the same as it is here in the States: The young can't get hired until the old vacate some of the jobs. I know a lot of my friends in multiple fields couldn't get a job because they were competing with people 30 years their elder for the same entry-level position.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:15 PM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


>Viking raids?

I don't know about this. I think we'd really have to take a hard look at how global climate change is affecting local tidal conditions before putting too much stock in such a one-size-fits-all approach.
posted by darth_tedious at 3:17 PM on February 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


haven't read the article yet but "being a twentysomething young European has rarely been more stressful." is a pretty silly thing to say if we're taking it literally.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:18 PM on February 1, 2012 [26 favorites]


The young can't get hired until the old vacate some of the jobs.

There's no reason to believe that there is a finite amount of work to do in the world (see here).
posted by bonecrusher at 3:23 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


However, I also know that the traditional way of dealing with a lost generation is very, very popular in Europe. After 1914 and 1939, unemployment simply wasn't a big problem.

My own personal opinion is that we're headed for another 1848. The elites simply don't want a war and won't benefit from one due to the increased level of integration. There's an interesting analysis of 1914 to 1945 that considers the period as a European Civil War, which may or may not be true. But were it to happen again today, that would effectively be the case. The problems now are about the lack of democracy and loss of economic credibility at the top, the same kinds of things which drove the Year of Revolutions.

Viking raids?

Interestingly, the idea that viking raids were caused by overpopulation is not considered correct in many cases. In at least the case of Danish raids on England in the early-800s, the lack of a political center in Denmark was probably the cause, as competing members of the elite raided to acquire money and esteem to raise their position at home. The settlements under the Great Heathen Army were decades later.
posted by Jehan at 3:24 PM on February 1, 2012


The young can't get hired until the old vacate some of the jobs.
In a healthy economy, there would be new jobs being created, plus older people wouldn't be afraid to retire. Would you want to rely on savings in the stock market right now? A pension that could be raided as part of an austerity measure? Social services for old folks?
posted by craichead at 3:27 PM on February 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Someone open a Groupon office there before they start WWIII!
posted by chundo at 3:34 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


But being a twentysomething young European has rarely been more stressful.' Here are some of their stories.

This is stupid. Being a twentysomething in Europe has virtually always been more stressful than now. There may have been stretches in the past 50 years or so which were less stressful but "rarely" is just plain crazy talk.
posted by Justinian at 3:39 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Aaaaand I see others have made the same point. It just goes to show how you can poison the well of your own article by needless and poorly chosen hyperbole.
posted by Justinian at 3:40 PM on February 1, 2012


These kids today don't understand how hard it was to be a twentysomething during the bubonic plague. In those days, Black Death wasn't the name of a heavy metal band.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:45 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


(keep in mind the woman who wrote that sentence graduated from high school in 2005)
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:46 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Every Spaniard, Greek, an Portuguese should ask himself, "What would a German do?". If their citizenry did that collectively, problem solved within a year.
posted by Renoroc at 3:47 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem isn't that there is somehow a finite lack of jobs - the problem is that many countries, including Spain and Greece, have embarked on austerity programs. Turning off the taps is the worst thing to do in an unemployment crisis.

Anyway, saying that youth had it harder during WWII or whatever is hardly an interesting observation to make, and I'm pretty sure everyone reading this thread has been unemployed or chronically underemployed at times (I certainly have). It sucks, it is depressing, it takes the joy out of being young.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:48 PM on February 1, 2012


For the first time since the 1960s, the jobless rate has nudged 18.5%

So it was this bad in the 1960s too? I mean, yes, it is a shitty situation in Europe right now... but pretending like boom-times are the norm is extremely myopic. And such an assumption is a pretty bad starting point for trying to find a reasonable solution to the situation.
posted by molecicco at 3:52 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


It sucks, it is depressing, it takes the joy out of being young.

You know what else sucks, is depressing, and takes the joy out of being young? Trench warfare, genocide, total warfare, and living under the threat of imminent nuclear war. And that was the just the 20th century.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:59 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Renoroc, is that sarcasm?

Germany is a huge country, lush with natural resources and a sprawling industrial complex. I can't speak for Spain or Greece but until 1974 the Portuguese lived under a military dictatorship that overtly preferred to keep the population at large ignorant and impoverished.

We can talk about a Germanic love of entrepreneurialship or the Latin love for the sprawling bureaucracy but what's particularly hateful to me (belonging to this cohort, and having grown up in Portugal) are these wide ranging cultural indictments.

German GDP per capita is twice that of Portuguese GDP per capita. Think about the implications that has for quality of life.

Portugal has always been a crappy, shitty little country and frankly I'm really glad I left. It's incredibly depressing to talk to family I have left behind because there's this enormous sense that there is no future.

You will never move out. You will never really travel or own nice things. You're lucky you're making those 500 eur/mo in the first place.
posted by pmv at 4:06 PM on February 1, 2012 [15 favorites]


"What would a German do?"

Holiday in the Algarve! Costa del Sol! Mykonos!

Damn. Problem NOT solved.
posted by chavenet at 4:07 PM on February 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm pretty sure everyone reading this thread has been unemployed or chronically underemployed at times.
While we're picking on the hyperbole in the article, I couldn't let this go. I certainly haven't been.
posted by jacalata at 4:09 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know what else sucks, is depressing, and takes the joy out of being young? Trench warfare, genocide, total warfare, and living under the threat of imminent nuclear war. And that was the just the 20th century.

Fine, you win. Chronically unemployed kids today are just fucking whiners.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:09 PM on February 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Black male unemployment in Milwaukee is 55.3%. I don't really see how 28% is that bad compared to double that.
posted by Slinga at 4:11 PM on February 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Chronically unemployed kids today are just fucking whiners.

See, I knew we could come to an agreement!
posted by entropicamericana at 4:23 PM on February 1, 2012


Chronically unemployed kids today are just fucking whiners.

Also: My lawn. Get off it.
posted by Justinian at 4:45 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


They should start their own businesses...oh wait, too bad starting a business in most of these countries is freaking miserable thanks to onerous regulations and corrupt officials.

Even when I lived in Brooklyn and saw a lot of under and unemployed young folks starting businesses, I saw many of them crushed by regulation. Particularly small food businesses. The government attitude is that there is only one way to produce safe food and that way is the way that industrial businesses do it. No, you can't use a different small-scale appropriate method that produces identical results, because who is going to fund the studies the regulatory agencies demand? There is some effort to mitigate this though. I'm glad to see the government recognizing that the regulations quash businesses and starting to offer business incubators.
posted by melissam at 4:49 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


They should start their own businesses...oh wait, too bad starting a business in most of these countries is freaking miserable thanks to onerous regulations and corrupt officials.

I hope well–informed people come in here and talk about how easy or hard it is to start a business is different EU countries. We hear a lot of stories, but I'm not sure all of them are true, or at least how things really work. I certainly don't feel regulations are a problem for starting a business in the UK, and definitely aren't the things I would worry about.
posted by Jehan at 4:54 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Black male unemployment in Milwaukee is 55.3%. I don't really see how 28% is that bad compared to double that.

A third possibility is that both of those figures really, really fucking suck.
posted by carbide at 4:58 PM on February 1, 2012 [16 favorites]


Slinga: Black male unemployment in Milwaukee is 55.3%. I don't really see how 28% is that bad compared to double that.

If 28% is the average across all groups, disadvantaged groups are probably really badly off.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:05 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


The article summarizes what these folks are hoping to do. Some of them are interior designers, tour agents, photographers, journalists, chefs, arts students.....

I'm a terrible jerk, because I feel like there's always been super stiff competition for jobs in arts, culinary arts, interior design, journalism, retail.

But I'm a jerk, so I guess I need to understand better why there's the expectation of easily found jobs in those areas. Also, I thought European countries historically had a high rate of unemployment because of strict labor laws that don't allow treating workers like serfs or garbage.
posted by anniecat at 5:06 PM on February 1, 2012


Of course, given Greece's cooking of the books/economic corruption and the Eurozone problem, of course they're having a rough time.
posted by anniecat at 5:07 PM on February 1, 2012


Yeah, honestly, from everything I've seen, minority unemployment has been reliably about double overall average unemployment for over a hundred years.

Oh, I suppose a sweeping claim like that *does* require some backing up. Well, this goes back to 1980. Same was true throughout the 1950s, during the Great Depression, and even the high rolling days of the 1920s. Any further than that and you run up against the Gilded Age, where most african-americans are sharecroppers.

As much as I'd like to see structural racism "solved," I'd settle for doing something to get jobs in the hands of people who want jobs. Unless that "something" is starting another war, I suppose, but I've all but given up on sanity in foreign policy these days.
posted by absalom at 5:07 PM on February 1, 2012


Y'know, my grandmother was born (Jewish) in Vienna in 1909, and I still think you guys are being a little harsh. The author lacks some historical perspective, for sure. But the situation for young people in Europe sucks and doesn't look like it's going to get better anytime soon. It doesn't have to be the worst thing that's ever happened to anyone to be bad and worrying.
posted by craichead at 5:11 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ireland of 2012 looks a lot like Ireland of the the decade prior to 1994. So no, its often been just as stressful and the author really doesn't know their history.

I graduated in 1991 and got the hell out of Ireland because there was nothing worth staying for. Also had to walk to school barefoot and it was uphill both ways.
posted by Long Way To Go at 5:38 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Eponysterical.
posted by Kabanos at 6:48 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here is the bit that bugs me-

Can't say for the EU, but here in the States there is infrastructure that has been crumbling for 30 years now. The Department of Transportation rated bridges as failing back then. There has been no motion for improvement in the intervening years.

The place I work at has been chronically short of staff for the past 10 years. Can't seem to hire folks quick enough. They've dropped the requirement for a year of experience, and now offer, in essence, on the job training supposing you have the proper credentials.

Close to where I live, there has been a new development, so what was once a four-way stop with a gas station is a clusterfuck of traffic and new businesses... as if someone came to grand realization that driving 20 miles for groceries isn't sane. And this had been going on for years.

And for the businesses that got displaced, there are still community needs that go unmet. There shouldn't be as many vacant buildings, and I wonder if no one else notices people driving to neighboring towns for things that could be addressed locally.

In short, there is a ton of work that needs to be done. Everywhere. There should be no reason for unemployment.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 7:03 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Looking at Perplexity's chart, it shows the unemployment rate for the 16-24 age cohort across the entire EU as being about 22%. But what it doesn't show is a comparison to the unemployment rates for other age groups.

If you make some fairly basic and reasonable assumptions about the 18-24 age group, things begin to look a little different and the higher rate becomes more understandable. Break this big 18-24 set down into four groups: 16-18/18-20/20-22/ and 22-24 year olds. First, that the vast majority of 16-18 year olds should be and probably are in school full-time within the EU. So let's just not count that group as having a "real" unemployment rate of 22%. Then, I'm guessing that somewhere between a third to a half of the 18-20 year olds are probably also in school full-time. That 22% unemployment figure is probably a lot closer to the overall average 13-15% unemployment rate across all age groups within the EU.

Yes, unemployment is high - everywhere - and there are certainly localized pockets that have extremely high rates. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that these 18-24 numbers are a bit stretched to fit the premise.

Full disclosure: My mother is German.
posted by webhund at 7:10 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure everyone reading this thread has been unemployed or chronically underemployed at times.

While we're picking on the hyperbole in the article, I couldn't let this go. I certainly haven't been.

I do believe the hyperbole was somewhat mitigated by the words at times.

If you've never been unemployed more than six months, have never been underemployed more than six months, I think you're damn lucky. Even among MeFi members, who I venture to say are more educated and have pretty decent employment compared to the average bears, I'd venture to say that 60% of of us are either un- or under- employed with respect to our wage, age, and education.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:17 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


@webhund What you say is very true. Youth unemployment is higher because many young able people are still studying and not in the workforce for other reasons. This article goes in to some detail about why this is the case.

If you're a journalist and want to write about how bad things are youth unemployment figures are a great way to do so.

A law that required any journalist to provide context and year on year graphing of any headline figure would be useful.

This is not to say things are not bad in Europe. They are, but how bad is very much subject to interpretation.
posted by sien at 8:02 PM on February 1, 2012


Interesting. I know the UK keeps stats on young people who are not in employment, education or training. (NEET is the acronym.) Are there similar statistics for other parts of Europe.
posted by craichead at 8:14 PM on February 1, 2012


If you've never been unemployed more than six months, have never been underemployed more than six months, I think you're damn lucky

Do you have any statistics to back up your impression?

It's easy to focus the 10% unemployment rate and not the 90% employment rate. Or the 95% employment rate prior to 2008. I think it's safe to assume that there are plenty of people who have been working in their professions right on through.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:37 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


craichead, your question got me doing a bit more poking around. Yes, the EU also tracks NEET. And while it has increased from 2008 to 2010, the actual NEET rate for 18-24 is a markedly lower (albeit still higher) 16%, which is about a quarter to a third less than what the original liked article claims.

Again, that the economy is the shits the world over is undeniable; I'm just saying let's put it in context a bit.
posted by webhund at 8:38 PM on February 1, 2012


The Chinese, Australian, Brazilian and Indian economies are going well. The German economy is also doing fairly well.
posted by sien at 9:15 PM on February 1, 2012


Naive question:

If I was unemployed now for than 6 months, I'd be homeless. If I didn't have my recent personally unique wiindfall, losing my job = can't pay rent, can't buy food.

How many of the un-/under- employed have cash reserves?

Are a quarter of young people without a roof over their heads and either require state assistance or are living on the streets and living under bridges and in public doorways?

Caveat, when I was unemployed for 6 months+ (with a BA and almost 2 years as a research associate in a startup that got bought out by a small pharma with aspirations to be a bigger player, who laid me off when they decided to unilaterally renege on the agreement that facilitated the buy-out*), I was fortunate enough to have parents who had room for me and income to feed me. I had zero cash, but was roofed and fed by my parents before being able to move out again and pay for my own food when I entered a MSc program.

I guess I was one of those who "chose" unemployment over taking a position that my education excluded me from. I applied to tons of fast food and office jobs - I had two years of part time job working at a New York Fries (a franchise chain restaurant positioned in shopping mall food courts) in highschool (in addition to a job building- and customer supporting- home computers as well as wiring and supporting networks and maintaining office supplies at a big company in a tall office tower downtown, through a company run by my neighbour from his garage. Fucking Frank made us build computers (beige boxes) in his unheated garage in the middle of winter - this was before fancy computer cases became fashionable; those old beige cases were a fucking snarl of razor edges and amateur-hour design/layout..

Zero responses from 1) retail, 2) fast food, 3) telephony customer support, 4) science/biotech. This was 2002 - would have thought that there was more but...

*further caveat: they offered to move me to Boston along with the rest of the lab, which would have been a ~20% effective pay decrease... and accepting that I was a disposable cog who'd have to make it back to Canada on my own means once they made that temporary position unrequired.


I'll (most likely) get my PhD in a few months. I'm rather competetive but I don't see academia as being viable career.

I used to love SCIENCE! and the idea of science, but, I used to be promised that governments fund science and discovery but now -

I have no idea how to make a living*.

*highly exagerated
posted by porpoise at 11:02 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope well–informed people come in here and talk about how easy or hard it is to start a business is different EU countries.

A close relative lives in Germany and started a business there that is thriving, despite the complicated and onerous regulation there.

A couple of years back, looking to invest some of the money that he was earning with his German business, he started another, smaller business in Spain, in a different branch. He found the regulation much lighter, the workforce much cheaper, yet the business went belly up fairly quickly. Why? Well, it turned up he'd disturbed a hornets' nest of vested interests: his competitors had quietly carved out the country between them, and didn't appreciate the new kid on the block.

After the fact, he was fairly philosophical about it: "You know, the money hasn't been lost. My competitors have taught me every dirty trick in the book, and a few more. As a learning experience, it has been more instructive and a good sight cheaper than an MBA."

The problem with those countries isn't excessive regulation. I can't talk for Portugal, Italy and Greece, but Spain and Ireland have a notoriously light regulatory touch. The big problem are anti-competitive practices and cronyism by the established players, and ultimately, a failing justice system that doesn't offer quick or effective redress to the victims of sharp practices. If young people are reluctant to start new businesses there, it isn't because of the weight of regulation, but rather because they know that they are going to get fucked sideways by various vested interests.
posted by Skeptic at 11:13 PM on February 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


f I was unemployed now for than 6 months, I'd be homeless. If I didn't have my recent personally unique wiindfall, losing my job = can't pay rent, can't buy food.

How many of the un-/under- employed have cash reserves?


In most of Western Europe, parents support their children financially for a lot longer than they do in New Zealand or Australia, which I am familiar with, and I'm guessing, the USA. In Germany, in fact, parents are required by law to support their children until the age of, I think 26, or maybe 28? When I did my Masters degree there, almost all my German friends were in their late 20s and early 30s and their parents were even paying their rent, if they weren't living at home. My parents, on the other hand, left me to fend for myself as soon as I left home, at the age of 17. (I ate nothing but toast and lentils for nearly a year when I was 18 because I was earning exactly $100 a week in my 8pm-12pm fast food job while going to uni during the day, and my rent and expenses also added up to exactly $100 a week.) Germans thought this was tantamount to child abuse, while my NZ friends thought it was kind of normal.

I've had more bouts with unemployment in recent years and have been fortunate enough to have a husband with a job. I think many in their 20s have a boyfriend or girlfriend who can support them a little bit for a few months when necessary, even if it isn't THE long-term relationship.

Finally, while I agree that counting unemployment figures from 16 year olds seems kind of crazy, in some European countries, they have multiple school streams, and if you are not in the one that finishes with a university entrance qualification, you usually do finish formal schooling around the age of 16 and transition into an apprenticeship or trade. I suspect there may be a shortage of these apprenticeships now, so I don't know what happens to these kids.
posted by lollusc at 12:24 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


In Germany, in fact, parents are required by law to support their children until the age of, I think 26, or maybe 28?

What?! Where's the incentive to hit the ground running and build a career?

Not that I've conquered the world as some sort of Randian hero, I've at least have stood on my two feet since I became an adult. I honestly think I would've ended up completely useless if I could've had another decade to "find myself."
posted by codswallop at 1:52 AM on February 2, 2012


Europe's lost generation, young and struggling in the EU?
Italy, Spain, and Greece?

And people complain when people take photos of crumbling Chicago, vacant houses, and homeless people in the US while extrapolating it to the US at large...

The title should say "The lost generation in Italy, Spain, and Greece". It is really bad there; I've mentioned before that we have a young Italian woman who works in our French offices, driving to and from her home in Genoa on the weekends, because she refuses to do years of unpaid internships, as has become the unspoken rule in Italy for young hires. She'd learned French to a professional level and made the most of it. Spain and Greece are in frightening straits.

But here in France, it's not much worse than ten years ago. I grew up in the US, have friends there, and honestly, things I hear from educated, middle-class folk over there worry me a lot more than what I hear in Europe at large. (With the notable exception of Italy, Spain and Greece, who are indeed very worrying. But I seriously doubt it will take down the EU.)
posted by fraula at 2:48 AM on February 2, 2012


Every Spaniard, Greek, an Portuguese should ask himself, "What would a German do?". If their citizenry did that collectively, problem solved within a year.
posted by Renoroc at 12:47 AM


Kill a bunch of our own citizens?
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:47 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Youth unemployment is higher because many young able people are still studying and not in the workforce for other reasons.

If you're studying or otherwise not actually looking to be part of the workforce, you're not counted as unemployed. A significant number of young and able people studying instead of entering the workforce would actually bring the reported rate down, not up.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:23 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


And people complain when people take photos of crumbling Chicago...
posted by fraula
Um, Chicago's not crumbling..

Maybe you were thinking of Detroit?
posted by MythMaker at 6:41 AM on February 2, 2012


Is this Europe's scariest chart? provided some good explanations on this topic. Notably..
"As the European Commission explains, the vast majority of kids that age are still in school. That means only about 17.8 percent of all Spanish youths aged 16-24 are jobless and not in school. (In Greece, it’s 10 percent of all youths; across the euro area as a whole, it’s 8.7 percent.) Those are still terrible numbers, albeit somewhat less apocalyptic."
posted by ejaned8 at 6:49 AM on February 2, 2012


This is stupid. Being a twentysomething in Europe has virtually always been more stressful than now. There may have been stretches in the past 50 years or so which were less stressful but "rarely" is just plain crazy talk.

Given the context we can safely assume they aren't referring to a period that includes the Black Death and the Reconquista. Christ. In the UK at least, the employment and housing situation was easier in the mid-80s than it is now - the deposit for an average place to live is three times the average salary, and many many people can't afford to buy because high rents make it impossible to save. I can't imagine how wide the gap is in Spain or Greece.

I'm in the non-Euro bit of Europe, and a friend of mine went to work in Dublin for a while. I've never been, so I was jealous, until he told me it was so expensive there that people were driving over the border into Northern Ireland just to buy petrol and groceries. I've noticed on price tickets for stores that sell in Europe as well as Ireland, the euro prices have remained the same - so you would buy a top for £30 or 45euro, but that 45euro is now worth £40 instead of £30. I'm not an economist, but why is the euro so strong against the pound if economies are collapsing? I know it isn't a particularly weak pound, as the dollar/pound exchange rate has been fairly static since we had two dollars to the pound in '07 (that was a good time for online shopping...) and then it fell to where it was before.
posted by mippy at 7:18 AM on February 2, 2012


I'm not an economist, but why is the euro so strong against the pound if economies are collapsing?

Firstly, economies aren't "collapsing"? Most Eurozone countries' growth figures still significantly outstrip the UK. Greece, Ireland and Portugal are the most affected, but those countries are small, accounting, between the three of them, for only 1/15 of the Eurozone population and an even smaller part of the GDP.

Italy and Spain are significantly bigger, but their growth figures have been very similar to those of the UK in 2011. Their problems are different: Italy's biggest problem is servicing its high public debt, whereas Spain's biggest problem a seriously skewed labour market which, after creating jobs very fast during the boom years, is now shedding them at an even more dizzying rate.
posted by Skeptic at 7:36 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unemployment in Switzerland (non-EU, non-Euro) is 1%. Careful where you look down, a crane might pop up and poke you in the eye.
posted by Goofyy at 7:41 AM on February 2, 2012


Switzerland is receiving dollops of capital flight from around the world, sending the Swiss franc into dizzying heights, something which the Swiss National Bank has had to take measures against (coincidentally earning its now ex-boss' wife quite a lot of money).
posted by Skeptic at 7:49 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, the Spanish equivalent of the Celtic Tiger then?
posted by mippy at 8:04 AM on February 2, 2012


I'm very sympathetic to this issue, but I don't understand the methodology of including 16 year olds in the range (16-24). The work options and challenges for a person under the age of 18 is vastly different than those for 18+ people. It is much more normal for a 16 year old to be unemployed than for a 20 year old. That inclusion just seems to skew the numbers but maybe there is a good reason for its inclusion.
posted by dgran at 9:01 AM on February 2, 2012


It's not that different though - a 16 year old school leaver has the same qualifications as someone who left school three years ago without going onto further education, is now 19 and has been unemployed since due to a poor economy. In the UK at least, the minimum wage for 16-18yr olds is lower (regardless of whether it is a full-time position or a saturday job), so they are more attractive hires to employers.

Of course, if you're comparing people with a GCSE level education against those with NVQs/A-levels/other post-16 qualifications as applicable in those countries (I don't admittedly know the standard leaving age in Spain, Greece or Portugal but it is 16 in the UK and Ireland) then this does make a difference.
posted by mippy at 9:05 AM on February 2, 2012


the deposit for an average place to live is three times the average salary

It isn't. You need about £10 - £30K for a deposit for an average place to live (depending on where you want to live), which is about the average annual salary. This is a shocking state of affairs but not as bad as 3x.
posted by Summer at 9:13 AM on February 2, 2012


I'm very sympathetic to this issue, but I don't understand the methodology of including 16 year olds in the range (16-24).

I believe the reason is that in those countries, as far as I know, education is compulsory until the age of 16.
posted by Skeptic at 9:19 AM on February 2, 2012


Every Spaniard, Greek, an Portuguese should ask himself, "What would a German do?"

Buy Marbella, Mykonos and the Algarve at knockdown rates?
posted by biffa at 9:43 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pointing out that people had it worse during WW1 trivialises the issue. In Greece a cohort of educated people is leaving the country or is fighting for unpaid internships, part-time jobs unrelated to previous studies or 600-euro salaries for the lucky few. People who have been in the job market are leaving to work abroad, including doing menial jobs abroad. Many of these people never wanted to leave. In Spain things aren't great either; anecdotally, I know a bunch of people with specialised MScs earning 800 euros and I've met plenty of Spanish looking to work elsewhere.

'What would a German do?' is a nice rhetorical flourish, but doesn't provide any answers because the problems are systemic. A decade ago Germany was considered a 'backwards' economy, too dependent on it's industry, and their reforms, along with increasing demand from China and the Eurozone dramatically changed that. Even that didn't happen in a year because of some intrinsic German property, but let's say Germany's handling of the crisis hasn't been that competent either. Though, CautionToTheWind, equating Germans with Nazis is bollocks.

It bears repeating that the unemployment rate includes only people actively looking for a job and therefore no students, people who have joined up or people who've stopped looking. Now the more unemployment worsens, the more people try to prolong their studies or join up (especially poorer people) or they get disappointed by job-finding services and slip through the cracks of statistics while looking for a job on their own.

I hope well–informed people come in here and talk about how easy or hard it is to start a business is different EU countries.

In Greece it used to take a month and a lot of hassle to start a business. There were some reforms recently that reduced that time to about a week though I don't know if that was properly implemented. The biggest problem in Greece right now is not how to start a business, but how to finance it even when it comes to established, profitable companies. The state has spent billions on supporting banks, who don't finance companies because their assets shrink due to the deterioration of the value of Greek bonds so they have to reduce loans accordingly. Meanwhile, companies have to service their accounts payable but can't collect their accounts receivable (either because of the state delaying payment, companies in default or companies without the necessary liquidity) yet somehow the economy is supposed to grow according to the forecasts of the IMF/EC/ECB. I'd love to be at an Economics 201 course right now.
posted by ersatz at 9:48 AM on February 2, 2012


Summer, it is the case in London which is where I live. You;d be lucky to get a flat for under £200k here, so that means your deposit is higher, and the average salary for London is about £26k. I earn more than this, but still not enough to buy a place of my own, which is insane. It means people in nursing, administration, retail and thousands of other white-collar jobs that keep the capital running will be unlikely to afford to buy their own home in their lifetime, unless they're lucky enough to have a rich relative or a very low rent. My friend just bought her first flat, and has been an avid saver for years, but she had to be lucky enough to have some money held in trust to enable it to happen.

While prices are lower in some regions, the average wage is also lower - in my home town, I could buy a house for £89k but I would be lucky to get a job that paid £20k because the industry is not there, not even if public transport was good enough for me to commute into the nearest city. The 'average salary' is somewhat skewed in these regions because it takes into account high paying jobs in the capital and other large cities.
posted by mippy at 9:58 AM on February 2, 2012


I have a question, and this is not a set up, I'm actually asking. The economy is usually blamed for its inability to sustain the new grads, but is the sharp increase in unemployment among millennials due to a greater proportion of them choosing career paths/university majors for which no jobs ever existed?

In other words, NOT "are there fewer liberal arts jobs available now?"; but are a greater proportion of kids going into liberal arts majors than ever before, even though they know the job market is bleak?

If they did, I'd be curious what their expectations were. I'm not being sarcastic. I am legitimately wondering what they imagined the future would be like, especially if they made this choice after 2008.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 10:24 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The economy is usually blamed for its inability to sustain the new grads, but is the sharp increase in unemployment among millennials due to a greater proportion of them choosing career paths/university majors for which no jobs ever existed?

There is also a bit of that, but actually, in Spain, which has the worst unemployment problem, unemployment is still higher among those without higher education than among graduates. During the boom years, many young people left school early to work in then-well-paid, unqualified jobs in the building sector. This construction boom also attracted many even less schooled immigrants.

Now most of them are jobless and largely unqualified, often with large debt contracted during the boom, negative equity on their houses. To top it all, Spanish bankruptcy laws are particularly skewed in favour of lenders: foreclosure doesn't cancel mortgage debt.

The fate of graduates isn't quite as bad, even if it is pretty dire. Spain's building-heavy economy signally failed to create many jobs for highly qualified graduates. As a result, 31% of those Spaniards who do have a job are overqualified, the highest ratio of the developed world (it doesn't help that vocational training has an abysmal reputation in Spain, creating a yawning gap between unqualified laborers and higher-education graduates). This, combined with often pretty bad management, results in those 800 € salaries for specialised MSc graduates ersatz mentions. And yes, an exodus of highly-qualified workers to greener pastures, which is probably the worst long-term threat to the economy. Many of my young acquaintances and relatives, especially among those with science and engineering degrees, are at least contemplating emigrationn and right now, the biggest growth industry in Spain are German-language courses...
posted by Skeptic at 10:46 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went and tried to answer my own question, and, long story short, it appears that rather than poor job prospects diminishing the desire to pursue liberal arts, a greater proportion of students are going into them than ever before. Post Crash. I have some charts over on my site.

Does anyone know if anyone has ever looked at what the kids of the "1%" are majoring in? Or the median income of the parents of the students in each major?
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 12:20 PM on February 2, 2012


It's probably a mistake to mix the "1%" into this discussion as that's more about wealth distribution than salary distribution. You can flunk out of college and work at McDonalds and still make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year from family investments.

In fact you probably want to exclude that bracket entirely and focus on the 85% to 98% salary brackets. 85% stars with twice the US mean.

Not sure about the parent question.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:30 PM on February 2, 2012


'Liberal arts' and 'major' are particular to American universities so it might be difficult to find info on that. (I'm not even clear what 'liberal arts' are.) In my British institution, which was a Russell Group uni, courses were divided into 'arts' and 'science' only, and there's no such thing as a 'major' - you apply for a single or dual-subject degree course, start work on the subject(s) in your first semester, and stick with it until you graduate. You would come out with a BA, a BA (Econ), a BSc, or in rare cases a BSocSci for one or two very specific courses. My friend took her year abroad for her language degree in Bologna and the system is similar there. It may be different for post-1992 (new) universities which offer more vocational and what some see as 'soft' courses like Criminology or Golf Course Management.

If you're talking about American students, then fair enough, but I don't see the relevance to a thread on the European economic crash.
posted by mippy at 12:37 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know if anyone has ever looked at [...] the median income of the parents of the students in each major?

The good news: Yes.

The bad news: it'll cost you $34.00 to find out what the conclusions were.

posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:48 PM on February 2, 2012


If you've never been unemployed more than six months, have never been underemployed more than six months, I think you're damn lucky.

I am, yes. But that doesn't mean I don't exist, and moving seamlessly from 'everyone has experienced x' to 'well, people who haven't experienced x are just lucky' seems to handwave away the actual inaccuracy. I'm 26 and have been almost consistently employed* since I was 13, moving straight from college into the professional job offer I received before graduation. Most of my college/high school friends and siblings did the same. This is a small group, based in Australia** and I'm not saying 'hey there's not that big of a problem, see my anecdote'. I'm reacting specifically against an inaccurate generalisaton that people appear to believe is literally true.

*When I moved to France for a gap year I spent a month unsuccessfully looking for a job before I moved to London instead and found one a week later. When I moved from Melbourne to Brisbane at 18 I spent maybe two months looking for a job before getting two job offers on the same day. I assume that this is not the unemployment experience you're looking for. If it is, I misunderstood.

**see also: international website. Note that I'm not sure what the equivalent youth figures for Aus. are.
posted by jacalata at 2:43 PM on February 2, 2012


Summer, it is the case in London which is where I live. You;d be lucky to get a flat for under £200k here

Yep, I also live in London, I'm also on a (much) higher than average wage and I also cannot afford to buy due to the deposit issue. At the moment you'll need about £20K in cash to secure a £200K mortgage (and about £5K extra for fees) plus a wage of about £50K pa. Those are the maths.
posted by Summer at 3:23 AM on February 4, 2012


« Older Anatomical quilling: paper cross sections of the...   |   I'm gonna sit write down and write twenty-four... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments